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The Passenger

Excerpt from Michelangelo Antonioni about his movie ‘The Passenger’ (1974)

The story of ‘The Passenger’, perhaps, looks like my story as an artist, as a director. I do not know if I will succumb: I am not talking about the temptation to change identity, because everyone has that. I’m talking about destiny, because each one of us carries his own destiny within him. I do not know if I will succumb to all those actions that, at the end of a life, come together to form one’s destiny. Some succumb, others does not.

Perhaps it’s a mistake to change one’s identity: you succumb to life and die. It depends on what you do once you have taken another identity. It is a presumption that will most likely bring a person into conflict with life itself. A journalist sees reality with a certain consistency, the ambiguous consistency of his point of view, which seems objective to him and to him alone. (…) After all, everything I do is absorbed in a sort of collision between reality and me. Neither lucidity or clarity can be counted among my qualities. I will never find the exact equivalent of my imagination.

The whole film is ambiguous, but I think this ambiguity is what gives it a sense of the concrete. Being, says Heidegger, is being-in-the-world (dasein). When David feels that this is the end (but even he is probably not so sure), he is no longer in the world. The world is outside the window. It is reportage on his own death.

Few people understood that behind the character of Jack Nicholson there was myself. Like him I have often wished I could change my identity, life, and encounters, forgetting my love and my duties, presences and absences to take on the identity of a stranger, to begin another adventure.

Lines to a Girl 5 Days After Her 21st Birthday

Back to the Palace

And Home to a stone

She travels the fastest

Who travels alone

Back to the pasture

And home to a bone

She travels the fastest

Who travels alone –

Back to all nothing

And back to alone

She travels the fastest

Who travels alone

But never worry, gentlemen

Because there’s Harry’s Bar

Afderas on the Lido

In a low slung yellow car

Europeo’s publishing

Mondadori doesn’t pay

Hate your friends

Love all false things

Some colts are fed on hay

Wake up in the mornings

Venice still is there

Pigeons meet and beg and breed

Where no sun lights the square

The things that we have loved are in the gray lagoon

All the stones we walked on

Walk on them alone

Live alone and like it

Like it for a day

But I will not be alone, angrily she said

Only in your heart, he said. Only in your head.

But I love to be alone, angrily she said.

Yes, I know, he answered

Yes, I know, he said.

But I will be the best one. I will lead the pack.

Sure, of course, I know you will. You have a right to be.

Come back some time and tell me. Come back so I can see.

You and all your troubles. How hard you work each day.

Yes I know he answered.

Please do it your own way.

Do it in the mornings when your mind is cold.

Do it in the evenings when everything is sold.

Do it in the springtime when springtime isn’t there

Do it in the winter

We know winter well

Do it on very hot days

Try doing it in hell.

Trade bed for pencil

Trade sorrow for a page

No work it out your own way

Have good luck at your age.

  • 1951 ‘Ernest Hemingway – Complete Poems’
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